The uprising of May 2, the wick that started the Spanish War of Independence

The uprising of May 2, the wick that started the Spanish War of Independence

If there was an event in which all the people of Madrid were united, it was the May 2 uprising. With Spain invaded by the French army, the people, fed up with the abuses exercised by the invader, decided to stand up to it and fight for your freedom.

Let's start with the background. Spain was in a quite delicate political situation. The highlight is the confrontation that existed between Carlos IV and his son Fernando, which ended with riot of Aranjuez and the resignation of the throne in favor of Fernando by the king, turning his son into Fernando VII.

"May 2" or "The burden of the Mamluks", by Goya

Napoleon bonaparte he was trying to annex nations to your empire and instead of turning to Spain to be his ally, he decided to invade it taking advantage of its political instability. For this he would hatch a plan that consisted of asking Spain for permission to cross its territory and thus be able to invade Portugal, a faithful ally of England. Thanks to this, he would be able to control both countries. On October 27, 1807, the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed that would allow the passage of French troops.

On March 23, 1808 Murat occupied Madrid. Due to this, Carlos IV and Fernando VII had to leave the capital and go to the presence of Napoleon in order to clarify the situation. Already in Bayonne, they are retained by the emperor. There Ferdinand VII is forced to abdicate his father, Carlos IV, so that later this one do it in Napoleon, which legitimizes him to put a monarch of his choice on the Spanish throne in order to ensure the loyalty of the nation. For such a position he chose neither more nor less than his brother Joseph Bonaparte.

After this event and observing the behavior of the French troops in Spanish territory, the population begins to be aware that they are not really passing through, but that they are invading the country. Little by little they take over cities and strongholds, abuse the hospitality of the people and control the ammunition and weapons depots, which leaves the people completely helpless.

Further, Napoleon decide to be cautious and order that the entire Spanish royal family is transferred to France to prevent any of them from claiming their right to the throne. These are Antonio, Francisco and the Queen of Etruria. The person in charge of such a mission would be Murat. The day to carry it out would be May 2.

In the early hours of the morning preparations for the transfer of infants to Bayonne, where the king and his heir were confined. Several carriages are prepared that would be escorted by the cavalry under the command of Lagrange. The news spreads like wildfire through the streets of the city and the inhabitants flock to the surroundings of the Royal Palace.

Defense in the park of Monteleón

Some of the citizens began to face the French soldiers. After the appearance of the infant Francisco de Paula, at the cry of 'They take it to us!' the people fought against the French troops to prevent the transfer of members of the royal family. Due to the ruckus, Murat, who was staying near the palace, hears the commotion from the collisions and orders the Imperial Guard to dispatch them. With several light field guns, the soldiers open fire on those gathered there. This only infuriated the people of Madrid more than at the cry of ‘Death to the French!’ he would get into a fight that would last for hours.

In spite of not have weapons, the citizens are made with all kinds of objects that can serve as such, such as sticks, knives or blunderbuss, and they begin to congregate in key points of the city such as the Sun Gate. As they pass, they face the French troops that they encountered along the way. The Prisoners of the Madrid jail They even ask the mayor to let them come to help on the condition that they would return after the confrontation. All this would have serious consequences since due to anger are not aware of the number of soldierswhich is in the capital, which amounts to more than 30,000.

But not all the people rebelled. Due to the numerical superiority, the Captain General of Madrid, Francisco NegreteWhen he saw that the number of Spanish troops in the city barely had 3,000 men, he decided to close the gates of the barracks, leaving the citizens alone before the French army. Also, the Supreme Governing Board also decide do not intervene trying to avoid the bloodbath that was coming. All this was considered an act of cowardice by the people.

After the start of the attacks, Murat orders his soldiers to end the rebellion in any way possible. The first thing you do is try to take control of the city placing patrols at key points such as Calle de Alcalá, Puerta de Toledo, Calle Mayor, Carrera de San Jerónimo, Montera, Fuencarral, Puerta del Sol, Paseo del Prado or the military barracks.

But of course, bigger clashes are held in the heart of the city, the Sun Gate. The French ordered the units made up of Mamluks, French dragons and Polish spearmen to go to face the people, since they had no mercy neither with women nor with children, they killed everyone they found in their path. Later the infantry would appear supported by the artillery. Francisco de Goya, who lived near the place, is a direct witness to the cruelty that takes place and decides to capture it in his paintings.

Monument to Daoiz and Velarde

Despite being able to calm the riots in the streets, there is a place that resist until the end. Its about Monteleón Palace Artillery Park, where citizens come to ask for weapons to defend themselves. Pedro Velarde and Luis Daoiz are there andDisobeying the orders of their superiors, they decide to provide arms to the Madrilenians, allowing them access to the site.

Between the two they divide the command of those who are there. Daoiz assumed command of the soldiers, while Velarde would be in charge of directing the civilians who had entered. Between all they prepare the defense of the barracks, positioning cannons at the entrance to the enclosure. When the French troops arrived, the General Lafranc calls for unconditional surrender, but the rebels ignore it. The Westphalian troops they face the rebels, which causes a high number of victims by the shots and cannon shots. Following this attack, hand-to-hand fighting what would end when all the park defenders would have died towards noon.

Shootings of May 3, by Goya

The repression is terrible. Murat orders that anyone found carrying weapons be shot. They start arresting people on all the streets of the city and they would be shot later in places like Moncloa, the Prado, the Retreat or the mountain of Príncipe Pío. Goya's paintings they show once again the horror of those events. Furthermore, the Council of Castile, by order of Murat, declares illegal any gathering in public places. The number of deaths reaches almost a thousand on both sides, although in Madrid it is possibly increased due to repression later.

However, the great consequence of the events would be that the rest of the towns, as they were becoming aware of the clashes, they were rising up against the invading enemy, which would give rise to the so-called Spanish War of Independence. It is a war in which most of the fighting takes place thanks to skirmishes of the own people and not so much for military actions.

We leave you to complement, a document on the War of independence in 1808.

Images: Public domain

With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


Video: The reign of Fernando VII